Spanish Smackdown-Seville vs. Granada

On paper, the Andalusian cities of Granada and Sevilla in Spain share many similarities. Both are known for their food and are home to famous buildings and a rich cultural past can still be found there today. However, if you look a little closer, you’ll find that they’re also very distinct. So distinct that you could say a sort of “rivalry” exists between the two. If you only have time to visit one of these cities, let the below information help you to figure out which one you should travel to and so I give you the Spanish Smackdown-Seville vs. Granada.

Best for sports enthusiasts and nature lovers, name droppers, fans of Christopher Columbus’ most famous patrons, and individuals with copious amounts of time on their hands.

Sports enthusiasts and nature lovers: Located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, Granada is the perfect base for activities like hiking, skiing during the winter months, and animal spotting. The city itself is extremely hilly so if you don’t mind getting a workout as you go from attraction to attraction, it’s perfect. And when you need to escape the blistering heat of the summer (and trust me, you will), the Mediterranean coast is only an hour’s drive away.

The Sierra Nevada are at your fingertips

Name droppers: For most people, Granada’s biggest claim to fame is of course the Alhambra, a former Moorish citadel and palace. Although there is no shortage of incredible buildings in Spain, there is something to be said about this royal palace that was once home to the Sultan of Granada (yes, back when Spain was ruled by the Moors, there were sultans there, not just stodgy European kings and queens). The fact that the Alhambra is located high above the city is one of the things I loved most about visiting. It literally seems to rise from the trees, thus adding to its mystique.

Patio de los Leones at the Alhambra

Fans of Christopher Columbus’ most famous patrons: It wasn’t until I studied in Spain did I learn how truly despicable King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella were (they were the ones responsible for allowing the Spanish Inquisition to happen as well as for the brutal explulsion of the country’s Jewish and Moorish populations). So I include this reason more out of sarcasm than anything else. But if you do admire this Spanish royal couple, they are actually buried in the city’s Royal Chapel. As a historical side note-they were originally supposed to be buried in Toledo (the tombs had long been built) but after they finally succeeded in regaining Granada back from the Moors, they wanted to be buried in the city that championed their ultimate success.

Which city in Andalusia should you visit?
Where the Catholic monarchs were supposed to be buried

Individuals with copious amount of time on their hands: Here’s the thing about Granada. It’s somewhat out in “left field” as the American English idiom goes. While Madrid and Barcelona are almost on a parallel line from west to east, and Madrid and Sevilla the same (just going from north to south), Granada is just “out there” on its own. While you can certainly fly from one of the other cities, flying in actuality is never as quick an experience as it is in theory, not to mention the country’s high speed rail line AVE does not travel there. So if you go, make sure you have the time to actually “go” so as to not shortchange your time there or your time elsewhere. Or, you can be crazy like some have done and go for the day…a very long day.


Patio de los Arayanes at the Alhambra

Best for those wanting to experience the real Spain, individuals with more limited time, and travelers wanting everything within moderate walking distance.

Best for those wanting to experience the real Spain: I tell people that if you only have the time and money to visit one Spanish city, make sure it’s Sevilla. While the megacities of Barcelona and Madrid are great, nothing compares to this incredible place. When I say that history is literally bursting at the seams, it is, there are vestiges of the long forgotten Jewish civilization there and Catholic houses of worship built on top of former Muslim ones. The past is literally before your eyes. The fictional character of Bizet’s Carmen was supposed to have lived in Sevilla. Curvy medieval streets, flamenco, tapas, it’s all here in Sevilla.

La Real Maestranza

Individuals with more limited time: I like to avoid flying if I can so the fact that the country’s high speed train AVE puts you in Sevilla from the capital of Madrid in three hours time makes it an extremely attractive place to visit from a logistics perspective. So if you only have a week at your disposal, a trip combining Madrid and Sevilla is just about perfect since both cities also offer some incredible places to visit as day trips.

Cรณrdoba is roughly a 1 hour train ride from Sevilla (on the AVE)

Travelers wanting everything within moderate walking distance: Although by modern standards Sevilla is definitely sprawling, all of its famous tourist attractions are in the historic city center which is all walkable. If you stay in the famous Juderia (the former Jewish quarter), the Cathedral, Giralada (former minaret), Alcazar (former palace) and numerous other sights are at your disposal, all within minutes of each other. But for me, one of the best things about Sevilla was that the ambiance of the historic district was part of the allure as well. Even if you do want to travel across the Guadalquivir River into neighboring Triana, it is still only an easy 20 minute walk from the city center (provided you don’t get turned around).

Sevilla’s historic city center is pretty compact

My honest opinion: I’m not going to lie, I really didn’t care for the city of Granada too much. While the Alhambra was one of the most majestic places I have ever been to, outside of that, I found the city to be a much less worthy counterpart to Sevilla. For instance, the Albacin, a famous neighborhood in Granada that is supposed to be a terrific example of Moorish architecture houses a market that was highly touted. I was so looking to purchase authentic wares from neighboring North Africa but the majority of what I found for sale was made in China. Granted, I was only in Granada for a weekend versus four months in Sevilla, but if you ask which city you should visit, I would by all means say Sevilla. But that’s my opinion.

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  • Reply
    Angela Travels
    February 4, 2014 at 5:26 pm

    I really enjoyed Granada when I was in Spain. It was my favorite city out of Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, and Granada. I felt that it wasn’t as modern or touristy as the other cities I have visited. I did want to check out Seville, but we did not have time. The prices were also good and Granada had the most traditional type of tapas (bread ones that are put on top of your beverage you order and were usually free with a drink purchase).

    • Reply
      Julie Tulba
      February 5, 2014 at 2:47 am

      Yes, I think if one were to compare Madrid with Granada, the differences between them would be very noticeable (I’m counting out Barcelona from this since Catalonia is a whole other story ๐Ÿ™‚ But on an “Andalusian” scale, Granada and Sevilla are definitely similar. Since my visit to Granada is going on 10 years ago, I wouldn’t mind returning to explore it again. I had read that there were traditional style Arab tea houses in Granada, sadly I never made it to one!

  • Reply
    February 5, 2014 at 11:57 am

    Great article, thanks for the info! I think I would prefer Sevilla for the ‘real Spain’ experience ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Reply
      Julie Tulba
      February 5, 2014 at 12:41 pm

      Thanks Catherine! Glad you found it useful! It’s definitely a tough one but I think “all-around” Sevilla delivers ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    New to the blog? Start here! - The Red Headed Traveler
    July 27, 2017 at 9:08 am

    […] Spanish City Smackdown: Seville vs. Granada […]

  • Reply
    Margot O'Donnell
    December 3, 2018 at 6:19 am

    Interesting comments which I think are useful for my trip to Seville next September. One question I have is this, is the city fairly flat or is it hilly?

    • Reply
      December 22, 2018 at 8:20 am

      Hi Margot-Sorry for the tardy reply. You will absolutely love Seville, it’s such a beautiful city and by September the heat should have lessened (some) ๐Ÿ™‚ The city is definitely fairly flat (unlike in Granada). Enjoy your trip!

  • Reply
    January 11, 2019 at 7:03 am

    I have been torn between Seville and Granada. I have about 2 weeks to my plan is to chill in and around Barcelona for about 10 days and then the remainder in Seville. Do you think 6 days is too much for Seville? Also, how is the airport connectivity to Seville from city centre. And lastly, is Seville safe for solo females?

    • Reply
      January 14, 2019 at 5:00 pm

      Hi Niki,

      Thanks for commenting! Honestly, I don’t think six days is too long a time in Seville. It’s one of those cities that is ideal for just soaking in the ambiance. However, if you do end up feeling restless, Cordoba is a terrific day trip and only an hour away by the high speed train (a little more via regular train or a bus). Italica (well preserved Roman ruins) is another option for a close day trip. There is a bus that goes from the airport to the city center which is very convenient (about 30 minutes). As for safety, totally fine for solo females, just exercise caution as you would in any city. Enjoy, it holds such a dear spot in my heart ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Reply
      February 16, 2019 at 9:25 am

      Hi Niki,

      Sorry for my tardy reply. Honestly, my vote is for Seville, Granada I would totally be willing to give another chance but I think Seville is absolutely breathtaking with its architecture. I don’t think six days in Seville is too long of a time because it would really allow you to soak in the ambiance but then if you are feeling restless, there’s a lot of great day trips you could do (Cordoba, Italica, Cadiz). There’s a bus that goes right from the Seville Airport to the city center, cheap and convenient. And yes, Seville is quite safe for solo female travelers, just use common sense like you would in any major city! Enjoy, I can’t wait to return one day.

  • Reply
    June 17, 2019 at 11:49 pm

    We have one night to spend in either Seville or Granada driving down from Madrid to Marbella. I understand we can only see a couple of things. I love the Cathedrals of Europe but the Alhambra seems like something we should not miss while in Spain (and I think we will only go to Spain once). Sounds like if we don’t get a pass now for Alhambra we could be out of luck though for late July/early August.

    • Reply
      June 28, 2019 at 11:13 am

      The Alhambra is pretty remarkable although if you settle on Seville, the Alcazar is equally impressive (just lacking a little on the setting front). If you do decide on the Alhambra, yes, absolutely make sure you get your tickets in advance! And bring plenty of sunblock and hats-the heat will be brutal. Enjoy!

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